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Lets rethink planned bag ban

by: Christopher Onstott At Hillsboro’s Far West Fibers plant, plastic bags improperly added to household recycling often jam up equipment and must be pulled out by hand. Letter writers weigh in on the pros and cons of Oregon’s proposed ban on plastic bags at grocery stores.

Each week there is an unsolicited ad 'paper' in a plastic bag thrown into all of the driveways and under apartment mailboxes for people who don't subscribe to The Oregonian.

This ad paper usually sits in that spot until garbage day, when the homeowner or apartment manager picks it up - wet plastic bag and all - and unceremoniously dumps it in the recycle bin.

Who would bother to take a wet paper out of the dirty plastic bag … yuk! In addition, when one of the many phone book companies leaves this year's book in a plastic bag on a step, in a driveway or under a mailbox, it too sits there until trash day when into the recycle it goes.

There are so many different editions of the phone book that no one keeps them all. They also get wet and yucky and are thrown into the recycling, plastic bags and all.

Enter the well-meaning lawmakers who only know there is plastic in the trash. No. 1, they don't realize most of us reuse our plastic bags from the grocery store over and over. No. 2, if they are leaving all of the plastic bags for produce, donuts, etc., in the stores, which people are more apt to throw out incorrectly, what is the point of going to paper bags at checkout? The bags found on the beach are probably the produce (think apples and carrot sticks) or donut bags - not the carryout ones.

It seems to me that the paper bag and permanent bag industries have done a great sell-job on this bill, and we are the ones who are going to have to pay. If stores would have a plastic recycle box just inside of each entry door, it would make it easy to bring them back. More garbage containers on beach entrances would also clean up more than just the plastic problem.

My other question is, why do we need to pay for the paper bags? Stores used them for years before the plastic bags and never charged then. A surcharge doesn't make sense. It won't make me use my own bags any more than I do now. I don't shop at Portland grocery stores any more since I want the plastic bags for other uses. I will just have to buy them like I used to before to line my trash bins after the ban, so there will be no gain to the environment.

The whole plan needs rethinking. It is not going to solve more than 1 percent of the problem.

Donna Nesbitt

Tigard

Recycle, don't legislate

No real need for more legislation, just recycle them (Plastic bags damage our state, March 10)!

Kevin Finch

Northeast Portland

Alternative bags have problems too

Plastic bags obviously cause lots of problems, but banning single-use bags altogether will just create different problems (Plastic bags damage our state, March 10).

In the absence of single-use bags, many people will either buy some kind of cloth bag or simply use the paper bags that are provided by the store. Unfortunately, neither option offers much improvement.

Cloth bags are not a very good option, because many of them are made of pesticide-ridden cotton or synthetic fibers that are also petroleum-based and bad for the environment.

Hemp cloth bags would be a much better option, but it is not legal to grow hemp in the U.S. even though many states have passed their own laws to legalize its production.

Paper bags are not much better, either. (They) require more energy to manufacture and take up more room in the landfill.

The city of Madison, Wis., has passed a law that bans single-use bags from the municipal garbage and encourages residents to return the bags to the store where they got them or recycle them at one of 10 different municipal drop-off points.

I think that a law similar to Madison's would be a better option for the same reasons the author mentioned in this op-ed (Facts don't support bag ban, March 10).

Banning the bags from garbage and recycling collection seems like the most sensible option, even if it is being promoted by someone on the American Chemistry Council, which represents 80 percent of plastic bag manufacturers in the U.S.

If only hemp were legal - we could use it to make either cloth or (biodegradable) plastic bags.

Carla Cruz-Ulloa

Southwest Portland

Protect consumers from BPA hazards

Julia Silverman's Sustainable Life article, 'Does danger lurk in food containers?' (Feb. 17), is indeed timely. Twice now Oregon legislators have failed to enact a ban on bisphenol-A, or BPA. Scientific evidence pointing to the serious health hazards of BPA continues to grow. Many states in the U.S., plus Canada and the European Union, have already outlawed this dangerous synthetic industrial chemical.

Public concern about BPA has steadily grown over the years here in Oregon, in particular for BPA's toxic effects on children exposed through baby bottles, sippy cups and prepackaged infant food. Yet, why don't our legislators answer the call for consumer protections? Industrial producers are avid to protect the multibillion dollar market and have played elected officials well.

Billy McGee and Kelly Bantle

Organizers, yPolitix

Portland

Company should pay for its pollution

The alligator will tell you anything to get you to climb into its mouth (Facts don't support bag ban, March 10).

Hilex-Poly emerged from bankruptcy just a few years ago to tell us all in Oregon that we should be supporting their one and only plastic bag recycling plant in the United States that was just recently expanded in January of this year. They are not in Oregon.

They want us to pay for their pollution and pay to try and fix it with a recycling market that doesn't exist for plastic film in the rates currently consumed. Just ask any recycler that actually operates in Oregon.

When will we stop this madness of outside interest?

Charlie Plybon

South Beach

Cities already choosing to ban bags

The op-ed 'Facts don't support bag ban' (March 10) created and struck down a series of straw-man arguments about the proposed bag-ban legislation. The truth is that cities across the state - including Portland - have already passed bans which will go into effect next year, and momentum is growing across the country as more cities and counties do the same.

The op-ed from Helix Poly ignores the fact that businesses, grocers, recyclers, environmentalists, and city and county governments have all come out in support of the current legislation. The decision before the Legislature is therefore not a question of whether bags should or should not be banned; it's about whether the state can help facilitate a negotiation between grocers, recyclers and the environment that will make the transition to reusable bags as easy as possible for Oregonians.

Failure to act at the state level will mean grocers and recyclers will have to adapt to continuously changing conditions imposed by local governments. The alternative to the current legislation is not simply recycling more bags - it's a messy process of patchwork regulation that will eventually find its way to the same end. Oregonians should not let outside industries dictate the terms on which this debate is being carried out. Let's take the cleanest, simplest, smartest solution when it's been presented to us.

David Mathews

Southeast Portland

Bag recycling has come a long way

Hilex Poly is a member company of the Progressive Bag Alliance of the American Chemistry Council (Facts don't support bag ban, March 10).

The author claims that you get plastic bags for free at the supermarket - this is not true. I and all other supermarket patrons pay for them. Those who use none or less out of a sense of frugality pay for the bags of the less frugal shoppers. Supermarkets run on a margin. The price of the bags isn't taken out of the supermarket's profit, but rather out of the product prices.

I haven't used these 'free' bags for years, and I still have plenty of plastic bags from bread, lettuce, celery, etc., to use.

Natural gas is often liquefied and used like petroleum. It is not an unlimited resource. Two percent is a lot.

The carbon footprint of plastic bags is smaller than paper, but plastic doesn't biodegrade and paper does. Furthermore, if we follow the pattern of Germany, Belgium and Ireland, all of which have instituted bag fees at grocery stores, bag consumption will go down dramatically after bag fees are instituted.

Major kudos to Hilex Poly for recycling so many bags. The technology in plastic bag recycling really has come a long way. Bravo for that. If we really would recycle them at high percentage rates, I might be convinced to not support banning the bag. But very little plastic, not to mention paper and metal, is being recycled as it now stands. The human factor being what it is, I think the ban is the way to go.

Frederick Oscar Roellig

Eugene